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GUNS Magazine December 2012 Digital Edition - Page 22
STORY: Dave Anderson A century ago when armies were equipped with boltaction rifles most had 2-stage triggers. The Lee Enfield rifle has a wide sear and engages a wide surface of the cocking piece. This substantial sear engagement provides a safety margin against the cocking piece being jarred off the sear by impact. A military rifle must function under adverse conditions. In the trench warfare of WWI a soldier might be firing his rifle and the next minute have to use bayonet or buttstock in hand-to-hand fighting. In the Lee-Enfield action the first stage (“first pressure”) moves the sear down and partially out of engagement with the cocking piece. In every example I’ve seen the engagement surfaces are angled Often derided, they are growing in popularity and quality. 2-STAGE TRIGGERS Dave’s Les Baer AR in .223 will shoot sub1/2-MOA groups all day long. The trigger is a 2-stage Jewell, and the first stage takes about a pound of pressure. Then an additional 1/2-pound pressure fires the rifle. Pull is lighter than Dave would use on a competition rifle but ideal for target and varmint shooting. so first pressure actually moves the cocking piece back slightly—just a little extra safety margin. The second stage pulls the sear fully down and releases the cocking piece to fire the rifle. American hunters have generally expressed a preference for singlestage triggers. As the shooter places the trigger finger and begins building pressure there is no trigger motion. Pressure builds smoothly until the sear releases. Certainly there has to be some movement or the gun couldn’t fire, but properly adjusted the trigger movement is so small you have to pay close attention to see it. Most post-WWI American boltaction sporting rifles use single-stage triggers. Notable examples include the Winchester 70 introduced in the late 1930s and the Remington 721/722 series. Many a military action had its trigger mechanism altered or replaced so as to have a single-stage pull. As a result there’s a misconception that 2-stage pulls are just a military expedient, while singlestage triggers are inherently superior. In fact good and bad triggers can be made with both styles. Self-Loading Rifles Semi-auto rifles often have 2-stage pulls, or at least pulls with considerable take-up, along with a generous sear engagement. Full sear engagement helps prevent the firing mechanism from being jarred off the sear by impact as the bolt cycles. On a superbly accurate Les Baer .223 I have a Jewell trigger with a 2-stage pull, total pull weight about 1.5 pounds. It’s lighter than I’d use for 3-gun competition, but fine for a rifle used exclusively for target and varmint shooting. I’ve noticed several 3-gun competitors using 2-stage Geissele triggers. They tell me the pull doesn’t slow them down at all for fast closerange shots, yet gives the option of a crisp pull when a precision shot is required. Modern 2-stage pulls operate a little differently from the original military style. With all I’ve tried, the first stage does not move the sear. The only resistance to first pressure is This is an English Lee Enfield No. 1 Mk III* rifle, with the bolt cocked. It has a 2-stage trigger pull. The first stage pulls the sear partially down, and then additional pressure for the second stage fires the rifle. 22 W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 2